Even though it only started about a decade ago with the birth of platforms like YouTube and Instagram, nowadays the creator economy is one of the fastest-growing industries.
This article will cover everything you need to know about the creator economy through a map of all the tools and startups creators use. So whether you’re a creator looking for guidance, a founder looking for opportunities or an investor looking to go to the moon, this article will be of great value.
How big is the creator economy
Currently, there are around 50M creators. They plus the platforms that support them, and the tools they use to create content make up the entire creator economy.
Out of the 50M creators only around 2M are considered full time professionals.
How did the creator economy come to be
Creators have always been here, what changed these past 20 years is the evolution of the internet and the birth of social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter etc.
In the past creators, were subject to work for companies and create for the needs of that company. Nowadays social media has set a stage where they can share their own content, build their own personal brands, and earn money from their creations.
Technology has also made creating content much easier, faster computers, better cameras on phones, lightning-fast wifi etc.
All of this and the rising idea of doing what you love for a living lead to the boom of the creator economy.
As the number of creators rises, so does the demand for tools and services to help their needs and fix their problems.
These platforms bring life to the creator economy. Without them, creators wouldn’t be able to create, and without creators, these platforms wouldn’t be able to exist.
There are over 300 creator-focused companies out there all aimed to help creators. They include:
- Tools for creating content,
- Off-platform monetization
- Audience management
These platforms are the heart of the creator economy, and there’s at least a few for every step of the creator work cycle.
Top creator economy companies and startups
The creator economy is made up of a lot of different tools and companies:
- Content creation apps (ex. Canva, Mojo, Spice)
- Off-platform monetization (ex. Patreon, Substack, Onlyfans)
- Fan interaction apps (ex. Cameo)
- Course creation platforms (ex. Skillshare)
- Admin tools (ex. Linktree)
- Merch services (ex. Printful, Teespring, Printify)
Patreon is a membership platform that provides a tool for creators to run a subscription service. This way creators can earn a monthly income by providing rewards and perks to their Patreon subscribers.
Patreon is very well known in the creator space and is one of the most popular platforms for creators, with over 200 000 active users.
And the platform hosts more than 6M active monthly supporters who financially contribute to creators.
Linktree is a tool that allows creators to host multiple links in their Instagram bio. Linktree has been revolutionary in the creator space since most creators need to link out to multiple places, though Instagram only allows one link to be placed in your bio.
Linktree has a user base of more than 14M and gets half a billion visits to their landing pages each month.
Linktree is also free, they offer a paid PRO plan that shows CTRs on Amazon integrations. This feature is useful to creators that are using an affiliate program.
P.S Linktree is one of our biggest clients. We help them, as well as other creator economy companies find creators. Fill out this form if you need any help with finding creators.
Gumroad is a self-publishing digital marketplace creators use to sell their digital products. It allows creators to sell directly to their fans.
Gumroad can be used to:
- Build an email newsletter
- Sell on Instagram, Youtube, Twitter and more.
- Create an affiliate program
Buy me a coffee
Buy me a coffee provides a service for creators to collect donations from their fans. Unlike Patreon which uses a monthly subscription-based model, Buy me a coffee is used for one time donations.
This platform is used by more than 300k creators to collect donations from their supporters.
The way BMC makes money is by charging a 5% fee per transaction.
Anchor is a platform for podcast creators. It’s an all in one tool that helps creators create, distribute and monetize their podcasts.
Streamlabs is a live streaming tool that was built to help streamers on platforms like Twitch, Youtube and Facebook to manage viewer interactions, chat, and donations.
How creator companies find new creators
For the past three years, we have been helping creator economy companies find creators at scale and quickly grow their platforms. Some of our biggest achieving clients include:
- Willa which raised 18M in VC funding. Willa used our services as their main marketing tactic.
We own the largest social media creator database on the internet. By using our data you will receive, besides the creators’ emails, 28 other data points that can also be used as filters:
- Keywords in bio
- Type of link in bio
- Instagram username
- Number of posts
- Number of followers
- And more
And with an email database of over 40M+ creators and influencers, we can easily find creators based on your target audience.
Our most powerful feature is the ability to filter our lists, and target creators based on their location, gender and age, category, and most importantly by keywords in their bio.
This way you will receive a list of targeted emails and data that will enable you to personalize your approach and quickly onboard hundreds of creators on your platform, which will bring you great success in your outreach. Click here to schedule a free call.
Social Media Platforms
Social media platforms allow creators to share their content with the world. Using algorithms these platforms distribute content to relevant people and help creators create and grow an audience.
These platforms are the base on which creators exist. Without them, creators, as we know them today, would not exist.
As you might have guessed these platforms mainly include but are not limited to social media:
- Video and streaming platforms: YouTube, Twitch.tv, Vine, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook Live
- Photography and image-based platforms: Instagram, Snapchat, Artstation, Behance, CG Society, Deviant Art
- Music and podcasting platforms: Soundcloud, Spotify, Itunes, YouTube
- Writing: Twitter, Quora, Medium
At the time this article was written YouTube had the biggest incentive for top creators because of the YouTube Partner program. No surprise since YouTube was the platform that originally started the creator economy, and popularized the word “creator”. It still remains the biggest creator platform.
What is a creator?
A creator is someone who creates content and earns money by doing so. Although only a small percentage of the 50M creators out there can earn a living from their content.
Creators most commonly content like YouTube videos, songs, podcasts, art, graphics, and animation.
Creators that succeed are incredible at what they do, they need to be better than the rest. And to do that they have to be relentless hustlers, good marketers, and extremely passionate about their craft.
How many full-time content creators are there?
Professional creators that are creating content full time ~ 2M
- YouTube: There are 31M channels on YouTube with only ~ 1M creators that have over 10k subscribers
- Twitch.tv: There are 3M streamers on Twitch with only ~ 300k that are twitch partners or affiliates
- Instagram: There are 1bn accounts on Instagram with only ~ 500k that have over 100k followers
- Musicians, writers, artists and illustrators, pocasters ~ 300k
How many amateur content creators are there?
- YouTube: There are 31M channels on YouTube with ~ 12M creators that have between 100-10k subscribers
- Twitch.tv: There are 3M streamers on Twitch with ~ 2.7M that are non partners or affiliates
- Instagram: There are 1bn accounts on Instagram with ~ 300 that have 50-100k followers
Types of creators
There are two main types of content creators, those that create visual content and those that create audio content.
Visual content creators
Visual content creators make up most of the creator economy. They include:
- Graphic designers
- Artists and illustrators
- Instagram personalities
Audio content creators
These content creators mostly consist of:
How do creators make money?
Out of the 50M creators only 2M are considered to be professional. Meaning that they are full-time content creators, and make a living.
Full time and amateur creators alike generate their income through a variety of methods:
- Advertising revenue
- Receiving tips
- Receiving subscriptions for exclusive content
- Selling courses
- Affiliate marketing
- Selling merchandise
- Donations from fans via donation platforms
The reason why creators are so diverse with the methods they use is to scale and secure their income.
For example, if a creator solely relied on YouTube Adsense revenue, and YouTube decided to demonetize their account then they would be left with nothing.
So creating multiple income streams is the only way creators can secure their way of life.
Fortunately though there are a ton of companies that have been built to help creators on their journey and allow them to make a full time income.
Creators earning income through advertising revenue was first introduced in the early days of YouTube. Although to earn a considerable amount of money through ads alone is very hard.
Most creators don’t even make enough money to reach the U.S poverty line of $12 an hour. The biggest earners here are the 1% of creators who have been at it for a very long time and have accumulated very large audiences.
Depending on the viewers’ location and the target audience, YouTubers receive $0.5 to $6 per 100 views on their videos. And keep in mind that YouTube pays for the number of people that watch ads on your channel and not the general number of views.
Donation platforms and exclusive content
Donation and patronage platforms took the creator economy by storm when they first showed up. Through these platforms, creators can directly depend on the support of their fans by collecting donations and tips.
Some of these platforms have a subscription-based model where fans can choose to be monthly subscribers and actively contribute to their creator.
Creators create exclusive content on these platforms as a way to incentivize their community to join.
Merch and Products
Selling merch and custom products is another trend in the creator space, which is mostly used by YouTubers, streamers and Instagram personalities.
Creators in different niches sell different products, in the beauty community for example, creators sell makeup products. While in the fitness industry creators market their own supplements or workout accessories.
Creators sell items, most commonly clothing, with their own designs unique to their personal brands. They then use third party companies to hand the production and shipping.
These are some of the most popular companies:
Course selling and webinars
Creating and selling online courses is another way that creators use to make money. This method is used mostly by creators that have valuable skills such as painting, cooking, producing music etc.
Skillshare is the most popular platform for course selling amongst creators.
In fact, Skillshare’s entire marketing strategy was based around targeting creators and getting them to join their platform and create a course.
Other course selling platforms include:
NFTs (non-finglible tokens) are records of digital asset ownership that reside on a blockchain. NFTs can be images, videos, songs, and even written text.
Creators use NFTs to avoid paying intermediaries (record labels, management) large amounts of their earnings. Spotify for example pays ~$4000 for 1M plays, and after other intermediaries take their cut the artist is left with just $800.
Artists also give up their song’s rights when working with intermediaries, so they can’t even play their own song live without permission.
Intermediaries also fully control how many people see an artists content. Spotify can change their algorithms any day, or even take down any piece of content whenever they want.
By using NFTs artists can avoid the problems that come with working with intermediaries and sell their content via an NFT marketplace directly to their fans.
Creating a multi-platform presence
Most creators nowadays use multiple platforms to nurture their following and secure their social presence. One creator may have a YouTube channel, an Instagram page, a Twitter page, a Patreon community and so on.
There are two reasons for this trend. The main reason influencers are spreading their presence across different platforms is because they want to secure their income, and create new income streams.
Let’s take Jeff for example. Jeff started out as a YouTuber, spent 5 years working hard and building up a following and is now making a full-time income from creating content. YouTube suddenly decides to update their terms of service, and demonetize Jeff.
Jeff loses that income stream. But luckily he has an Instagram account and a Patreon community. Now even though he doesn’t make money from YouTube Adsense, his patreons still support him and he can sell his merch on his Instagram.
Creators needed a way to interact with their community, and so Discord came in with the answer. Nowadays almost every creator has their own Discord server where they can directly interact with their community.
Creators becoming founders
More and more creators that reach a high level of success find themselves opening businesses as a way to scale their personal brands as creators.
Most of the time these businesses include retail product lines and clothing brands.
Creator and influencer marketing
More and more brands and businesses are seeing the power that creators have. Creator marketing is expected to continue to rise and surpass $3 billion in spending by the end of 2021.
Funding in the creator economy
The creator economy has seen an incredible increase in funding and investors in the past couple of years.
According to CB insights, VC funding deals have skyrocketed since 2019. And it seems investors are placing their bets on a small number of companies that survived and thrived during the pandemic.
Largest funding rounds in the last 2 years
Creator marketing platforms have been the main attraction of VC investors in 2020 and 2021.
Not surprising as influencer marketing has become one of the biggest trends in both the marketing world and the creator economy.
These are the platforms that have received major VC investments in the past 2 years:
- #paid – $25M
- GRIN – 35.3M
- CreatorIQ – 40.8M
- Influencer.co – 3.9M
- Tongal – $36.2M
Top creator economy investors
Some of the most notable and biggest investors in the creator economy:
- Andrew Capital – invested in: Buy me a coffee, Homebase.io, Lolly, Loverboy, Rosebud.ai
- Atelier Ventures – invested in: Substack, Stir, Patreon, Pearpop
- Chapter One Ventures – invested in: Cameo, Circle Dapper Labs, Fanhouse, Maven, Pearpop
- Index Ventures – invested in: Creative Juice, Gather, Sanlo, Fanbase
- Inspired Capital – invested in: Creative Juice and Geneva
- Intonation Ventures – invested in: Stadium Live, Boomy, Pipeline, Astro
- Ludlow Ventures – invested in: Stir, 100 Thieves, Hooked, YouToolz, Stream Labs
- Maac Venture Capital – invested in: PlayVS, Brud, Brat TV, FaZe Clan, Locker Room, Genies
- Next 10 Ventures – invested in: Koji, SuperBam, Podcorn, Influence.co
- Night Ventures – invested in: Beacons, Britski, Pearpop, Zora, Tensil
- SignalFire – invested in: Clubhouse, Karat, RedCircle
- UTA Ventures – invested in: Cameo, Moment House, Patreon, Chamberlain Coffee, Pocket.watch, Masterclass, Awesomeness TV
- Worklife – invested in: Clubhouse, Public, Hopin, Deel, Webflow, Pipe
To wrap it all up
The creator economy exploded ever since COVID first started, with everyone being stuck at home it opened opportunities for people to follow what they love and start creating. And it doesn’t look like it’s stopping anytime soon. As it continues to grow it inspires new creators to follow their passions and start creating. The need for new and innovative startups will continue to rise and create opportunities for founders, investors, and most importantly creators.